I was greeted at the airport by Sally and a man who appeared to be a customs official. Sally gave me my ticket, passport and boarding pass, and asked for my cell phones- the one from the embassy and Billy's iPhone. The man indicated that there was no need to check my duffel. He took it to a secure area, leaving Sally and me at the check-in.
"We'll be flying together again, first class this time. I took the liberty of giving you the window seat, I hope you don't mind." Sally spoke pleasantly, but her face lacked emotion. "We've got some time before boarding, did you have a chance to eat?"
"I might be able to eat a little."
"There's plenty of food to choose from in the terminal, do you have any Kronur left? Might as well spend it, you won't get much from the exchange."
We went up to the main terminal where there was a deli-style restaurant. I got a sandwich and a Coke; Sally glass of wine. We sat down and Sally looked at me carefully.
"Not exactly a fancy dinner date, is it, Billy? Are you doing alright? I realize what a remarkable thing it is that you're doing, I wouldn't be at all surprised if you were upset."
"I'm OK, I guess. I knew going into it that this would be a strange gig, but I never imagined it how it could turn so bad. The realization that I don't have any say in what's going on, that's the thing which bothers me."
"You're already past the hard part. The Senator will see to it that it will be considerably easier from now on; you will have every comfort—if you play by the rules."
"I understand. I would be a lot more comfortable if I had a different pair of shoes." I picked at the sandwich. My brain said that I should be hungry, but my stomach wasn't ready for a meal yet. "I will play the role of dutiful son." I wondered how Molly was taking the news of "my" death. She must have been notified by now. "Where is it I'm going, by the way?"
"We'll land in Washington, and then go to the Senator's compound in Maryland. You'll be under Secret Service protection."
"In a sense, yes. You'll be taken out for campaign appearances, but your freedom of movement and access to communications will be restricted. But it won't be too onerous - you've been under active surveillance since you left the storeroom this morning. Look behind you."
I turned around and the two goons who I had seen in the nightclub and at Billy's accident were sitting a few tables away.
"They were on your side, then?" I asked.
"They are on our side, yes." Sally smiled a little.
I put down the sandwich without eating any of it. Sally finished her wine then indicated it was time to go.
"Passport control is open now. We'll wait in the departure terminal. Don't talk to anyone."
The passport officer gave a cursory look at the replacement passport with Billy's picture in it and stamped it without comment. We went to our gate. I glanced at the departure board and saw that the Seattle flight was boarding in the next gate. The jet's hold was being loaded.
Along with the usual mix of luggage and parcels was a large, coffin-sized box.